Thursday, September 19, 2013

USC Gets Defensive

The first three weeks of USC's season has centered around the negative aspects of the Trojans' offense, starting with Coach Lane Kiffin's decision to play two quarterbacks, the lack of those two players--Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, to get the ball into the hands of Marquis Lee, USC's All-America wide receiver, the play of the offensive line and finally Kiffin's play calling.
The one bright light has been Tre Madden, the freshman who is the first USC running back since Marcus Allen  to rush for over 100 yards in his first three games.
But while all the critical focus has been aimed at the offense, the Trojans' defense has been going in the opposite direction. Under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who replaced Monty Kiffin, Lane Kiffin's father, at that job, USC's defense is ranked in the nation's top 10 in several categories including total defense, rushing defense, sacks, interceptions and tackles for loses.


add Lane Kiffin: A recent story in a Los Angeles newspaper focused on how hard it is for some head coaches to give up calling plays after they have been elevated to the top position from offensive coordinator. The article specifically mentioned the USC coach's desire to hang on to the laminated play card on game days, and the rush he and other coaches have of being in control of the offense.
This brings to mind a very famous play in a memorable game at the Coliseum when undefeated Notre Dame, ranked No. 1 in the country, played USC on the final game of the regular season in 1964.
With a little over a minute left in the game and Notre Dame leading, 17-13, USC had the ball on the Fighting Irish's 15-yard line. Wide receiver Rod Sherman went to the sidelines and suggested a play to Coach John McKay that Sherman thought would allow him to get free behind the defense.
McKay reportedly gave his approval for quarterback Craig Fertig to call "84-Z Delay, even though Sherman had fumbled twice earlier in the game. Fertig hit Sherman with a good pass and USC won in a stunning upset, 20-17.


add USC: The Trojans face another up-and-coming opponent this Saturday afternoon in Utah State. The Aggies are reflection of  upstart Washington State, a team that defeated USC two weeks ago, 10-7.  Utah State, which  utilizes  the spread offense, is  ranked 8th in offense and 12th in total offense. The Trojans are favored by just 6 points.
Meanwhile across town, UCLA, coming off a stellar 41-21 victory against Nebraska, takes on New Mexico State at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The Bruins are heavily favored by over 42 points.

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